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Mercs Next Door, Part 2
5/23/2015 7:36:30 PM by: Susan Lyttek

The suns passed noon and were heading into the hottest part of the day. I must have been there a couple of hours. The rays baked my unprotected skin. I began to doubt if Creator could hear me.

It was then I heard Merc voices. The low nasal drone was recognizable anywhere. Soon I felt one of those many-fingered hands touching me, gently shaking me.

Not Rhett, I prayed silently. Anyone, but that Merc.

When the Merc lifted my head, we recognized each other. It was Rhett. “Dad!” he called. “It’s Ren from school. We have to help him.”

Another, impossibly deeper Merc voice, said, “I’m not sure we can. He’s supposed to be completing a Fellow ritual this weekend.”

“But, Dad,” protested Rhett, “He’s badly hurt. I think his leg is broken. And his underbody is blistering. He’s probably been here for hours.”

“We won’t get to hike to your new camping spot,” his dad reminded him.

“Dad! That’s not as important.”

“OK, son.” I felt strong arms pick me up. They carried me up the slope and into the shade.  Then Rhett coated my underbody with some creme and eased a liquid down my throat. In the shade, my eyes adjusted and I could see around me. Rhett and his dad were making their tent into a stretcher.

“His name is Ren, you said?” Rhett’s dad asked. “Ren,” he said to me, “we’re going to move you to the tent. In order to keep you from getting more damaged, we’ll have to carry you underbody down. It will hurt. It will probably be the most pain you’ve ever felt. But if we don’t, there will be nothing left of your skin when we get back to settlement. Do you understand?”

I tried to speak but nothing came out. As best I could, I imitated the Merc head gesture of affirmation. I think they call it nodding.

It must have been right, because Rhett and his dad began to move me. They had a time turning me over. Finally, they lowered me onto the stretcher.

When my skin hit the rough surface of the tent, I expected immediate pain. But whatever they had put on me formed a thin layer of protection. Then they started moving. Each step took a little of the ointment off of me and put it on the tent. I clenched my teeth against the burning. After a while, I began to feel nothing but pain. Then I passed out.

I woke in a dark room. My underbelly had been bandaged with soaked gauze. It felt cool and comforting. I couldn’t move my left leg. I reached down and felt a hard casing on it to repair the break.

“Hi, Ren,” said a familiar voice. “You’re looking better. My mom made you some eek broth. Would you like me to feed it to you?” He paused. “Or would you like to sit up and eat it yourself? That’s what I’d rather if I were you.”

“I’d like to sit up,” I heard myself croak. Rhett sat me up by pulling on my shell. Somehow he avoided touching the gauze-treated skin. As I ate, he talked about his favorite things. To my surprise, he loved catching eeks, playing star ball, and findphasing. Those were my favorite things, too.

As I finished my broth, Dad came in. I hung my head. I had not completed Expedition.

Dad could see my shame and despair. But to my surprise, I saw shame in his face, too.

“Ren, these Mercs told me of your bravery in the face of pain. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Expedition is about testing your courage. Yours was tested and you passed well. Now, heal quickly.” My father, with tears in his eyes, mumbled thanks to Rhett’s dad. Then I knew. Dad was ashamed of the way he had talked about the Mercs.

And me? My opinion of Rhett had begun to change when he stopped to help me. With all the things we had in common, I was beginning to think of him as a friend.

I was a friend of a Merc. A Member of the Earth-Related Communities. A human. And it wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was pretty good.

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12/13/2013 2:11:46 PM  by: Susan Lyttek

Homeschooling reinforced that I am not perfect
12/6/2013 11:33:13 AM  by: Susan Lyttek

And they said homeschooling would be easy...
11/29/2013 12:00:01 AM  by: Susan Lyttek